Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Interview with Maureen Lang--Author of Remember Me

I have just finished reading my friend Maureen Lang's latest release called "Remember Me." From the moment I started reading I was caught up in this story which is set in World War I time. I'm not a huge historical reader, but Maureen's story has converted me!
I was especially impressed with the amount of research she must have done before typing one word into the manuscript. As a writer I can appreciate the amount of detail and knowledge Maureen had to have gained to make this story as accurate to the time as possible.

I had so many questions in my mind regarding her research techniques I decided to post her answers here for everyone else to see.
Also, I had so much fun giving away Deb Raney's book a few weeks ago, I'm here to do it again. Leave a comment and on April 11th (next Wednesday), I'll draw a name to win a copy of "Remember Me."

Thanks, Maureen, for taking the time to answer these research questions that I know will be of help to many writers and even be of interest to readers who like to know how a story comes together.

1. What prompted you to write about WWI and from the angle you chose?

The First World War time period fascinates me! I love historicals, but this period has a touch of contemporary thrown in which adds a slight touch of nostalgia. Not that I remember this time period, but when I see buildings that were around during this time, or pictures from that era, it comes to life more vividly for me than something really ancient.

As far as the angle – I’m of German descent and married to a man of German descent as well, so I guess I stuck with the old adage about writing what I know.

2. I am in awe of the research that must have gone into the writing of this book and its predecessor. Can you tell me how you approached it? Did you mainly use the Internet, the library, peoples’ first hand accounts?

I did almost all of my research from books. I love to read, so it’s an enjoyable way to spend my time. I have a number of books on my shelf from this time period, but one of my favorite things to do is try and get my hands on many of the reference books listed in bibliographies of favorite books. I keep my local reference librarians busy when I’m researching a book! I do use the Internet, but don’t tend to trust it completely because there aren’t as many checks and balances in that avenue. With a published work, particularly from a historian, it’s subject to peer scrutiny so if it passes all of that I figure it’s more reliable.

3. How did you go about researching that period of time? How things worked such as cranking up the car before starting it and how it needed to be started within a certain amount of time or you’d have to crank it again?

I’m fortunate to have an antique auto museum not far from my house, and they were helpful in answering some of my questions about how cars worked at that time. I love it when books add little details that pertain to the time, details that have something to do with the characters and their lives – it deepens the texture of the work and adds to the author’s credibility.

4. What are some measures you take to be sure you don’t have them using something that hasn’t yet been invented?

I think it’s important to be careful about this sort of thing, because chances are someone out there will notice if I have my characters using something that had yet to be invented! Besides the typical library books, I love finding old magazines, such as at an antique or hobby show, and study the advertisements. From that I’ll know what sort of household items were in use, how much it cost, what the various uses would have been.

With word usage, I have a dated entry dictionary which I constantly refer to. Recently I wanted to use the word “nappy” for a baby diaper in England, but I had to cut it because the word wasn’t in use at the time of my Victorian setting.

5. Your story covers a lot of terrain so to speak. Was it difficult to write about the war front? How did you learn to write about the actual battles so realistically?

I have to smile over this question. In my first draft, my editor’s comment was “this is a much kinder and gentler war than the one I’ve heard of…” I was so blessed to have a wise, insightful and male editor with this book – someone who made me leave behind my tendency to go soft on things I’d rather not think about. Plus, I’ve seen enough war movies to get a feel for things without (thankfully!) having lived through a battle.

6. A unique aspect of the time that I wasn’t aware of was the influenza outbreak where public buildings were ordered closed, including courthouses and churches. Did you first learn of this and decide to include it in your story and wrote the plot to that effect or was it something that you had to bring in after the story was written.

That was actually one of the most fascinating parts of my research. Even though I’d done a fair amount of reading about the time period, I was only somewhat aware of a great influenza epidemic. I didn’t realize until I was well into writing the story that the epidemic would play a major part, so I did more research at that point, specific to the epidemic. I was shocked to learn how widespread this virus was, and wondered why it’s not a bigger part of the history we learned about in school. More people died of influenza than in all four years of the war. The virus attacked people in the prime of their life – late teens, early twenties. I found it so interesting that a virus of that nature seemed to single out people of the age most soldiers would have been. Without it, I wonder if the war would have lasted even longer.

7. What tips can you provide other writers for doing research for historicals that occur in the 1900s forward? What resources would you suggest?

I always start at my library. When I find a book that details everyday life of that time period, or some other aspect of the time period I’m interested in, I see if the book is written in a style that engages me. Many history books are dry, but others are very engaging. It’s those I tend to study, and then check out the bibliography for more titles this author used. Chances are those are to my taste as well. I love reference librarians! They like looking for books on little-known topics or specific eras, and they always come through for me.

8. Are there any plans for a sequel? You have a lot of characters around which you could build another story such as Penny.

Funny you should mention Penny – when I was writing one of the scenes with her interacting with Josef’s young lawyer, I thought I saw sparks flying and wanted to investigate that. Unfortunately, time constraints and other demands took precedence so I didn’t go into it any farther than that. But who knows? I almost never say never…

Maureen will be signing "Remember Me" at the Arlington Heights, IL Barnes & Noble located in the Annex II shopping center at Arlington Heights and Rand Roads from 5-7, on April 20th. She will be signing with authors Cyndy Salzman and Judith Miller. If you live in the area, please stop by and say hello!

Don't forget to leave a comment. I'll be drawing a name on April 11th! And if you don't win your very own copy here, you can order Maureen's book by going to Amazon.


Marion Kelley Bullock said...

I enjoyed reading about Maureen's book. Can't wait to read it.


Sally Bradley said...

Don't enter me in the contest, Pam, since I already have it, but thanks for th interview, both of you. Love the behind-the-scenes stuff.

Kathleen Morphy said...

Thanks for the interview, Maureen. I've wondered about the lack of education regarding influenza too since I never heard of that epidemic in school. I ran across it only a couple years ago in a book. I don't usually like books set during wars, but yours sounds very intriguing. Please, sign me up for the drawing!

Lindsey Freitas said...

This sounds so good! I'm especially interested in WWII era right now so "Remember Me" is really appealing to me. Great interview, too! Please enter me in the drawing!

Lacy J. Williams said...

What a great interview and great tips on researching! I can't wait to read this book!

Becca Dowling said...

Remember Me sounds very interesting both from the "angle" and the amount of research that went into it. I'm going to add it to my list...

Thank you for the interview on research, too! As a beginning writer, this is info I need to know!